Wednesday, July 4, 2012


"Then last week, as it must to all men, death came to Charles Foster Kane."

It was over 10 years ago now, but I still remember the phone call vividly. Catching up with mom like I always did, the content of the conversation wasn’t any different than usual—she was fine and Dad (an invalid, bedridden, and suffering from dementia for years) was no better or worse.

But there was something about the tone in her voice that was unusual, though impossible to pin down. And even though I couldn’t put my finger on it (and didn’t even know if she realized she had sounded different), I knew what I had to do.

So within a few hours, I was on the road, driving the 500 miles overnight to head back to the house I grew up in, surprising her that following morning at the door. I spent an hour just holding his hand, and then took a quick nap. After waking up, I joined her again in his room, and with each of us by his side, clasped hands again, we watched him peacefully pass. He was 93.

The end was simple. No profound last words, like Kane’s “Rosebud”. No frogs from the sky (though Jason Robards’s incredibly moving portrayal in Magnolia often reminded me of Dad’s last moments of lucidity, before his mind disappeared beyond our grasp). It was death at its most quiet and solemn. And for my Mom, who was his caretaker for years, and for him, a shell of his former self, it was a freedom for which I had long prayed for. He had had a good run, but that day was painfully overdue.

I got my blue eyes from him. My love for tennis (watching and playing) and travel (he visited 60 countries over 40 years working in the U.S. state department). We went to the same alma mater, graduating 63 years apart. Most of the life he lead before my Mom he kept close to his vest. But I do know that when he was my age, his first marriage hadn’t failed yet (mom was his second, and last). So a belief in second chances is something I might slowly learn to embrace from his example, too. We had few things in common, but a need for redemption from past failures is one of them.

He was born on the 4th of July, just like the song's Yankee Doodle Dandy (Walter Huston’s final scene w/Cagney’s George M. Cohan, in the film of the same name, is another beautiful cinematic deathbed moment, father and son saying goodbye). So when I celebrated Independence Day, it really was more about my Father than our Founding ones. The fireworks were always for him in our eyes. And when he died, my interest in the holiday largely died with him. It was nice and musical and colorful, but just wasn’t the same.  And never will be.

The 3 American flag stamps joining Captain America (Scott #4159e ) date back to 1957: Scott #’s 1094, 1132, and 1320. The US Citizen Kane stamp (Scott #3186o) I paired with one from Guyana. Bernard Herrmann’s first film score was for Kane, as was Orson Welles’s only Oscar (but for screenwriting, not directing).  The Scott #’s are 3341 & 3772b, respectively.

1 comment:

lilianavonk said...

What a lovely tribute to your dad. It sounds like we have being the child of older parents in common... :)